Question about Professional Skills for missionaries:
"I’m a resident physician. Should I get more clinical experience here before I go overseas? What about an MPH? Should I do a fellowship in infectious disease? Can a physician be "too" trained?"
The longer you are in the American culture, the more attached and entangled you will become. Look at Medsend to pay your student loans; they can make the loan payments as long as you are working in a third world country.
Yes, a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree would be great, but you'll learn more if you get it after you have been on the field for a few years.
A fellowship in infectious disease is certainly not necessary, but consider taking the Tropical Medicine short course at West Virginia University. John Hopkins and the London School of Tropical Medicine offer the same course but they charge much more.
Another thing to do is to read every missionary biography/autobiography that you can. Visit the CMDA bookstore and get everything you can by Paul Brand, John Patrick, and Tom Hale, and others. That teaching I use every day.
The more training you have, the narrower your options for service, and the greater the temptation to feel you are too highly qualified to "waste" your good education overseas. (Even if you don't think in this way, there are plenty of others who will counsel you in that manner.)
Once you complete your residency, plan to get overseas as quickly as possible.
I have not seen a missionary physician who thought he had had too much training before he went ... but it is possible to spend your entire life in study.
As for clinical experience, you can go straight from residency if it is a good residency. A fellowship in infectious diseases may be helpful almost anywhere you go, but a diploma of tropical medicine and hygiene (DTM&H) from England may be even better.
I practiced in a mission hospital for two years, then enrolled in a correspondence MPH program to give me the understanding I need for our hospital's immunization, TB and HIV programs as well as working in the larger health system.
Distance learning programs allow you to continue serving in the field while taking on additional training. Getting more and more specialized in the US may be more likely to prevent you going than really changing your impact in the mission field.
Practicing infectious diseases, public health, tropical medicine and traveler's health is the most exciting part of medicine for me. I would not be happy as a generalist. Do what you want, since God made you and your desires and interests, and he will guide you to overseas service where and when he wills.
Keep in mind that the purpose of medical missions is more mission, not medicine per se. If you have a strong humanitarian focus, you can be a righteous secular humanist and help with medicine all you want! What makes medical missionaries different is the Holy Spirit empowering them to see how God is working, join with him, and share Jesus with everyone they meet.
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